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Tue September 14, 2021 - Midwest Edition #19
In Summit County, Ohio, work has begun on a $161 million project that will make significant improvements around the Akron Beltway. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is overseeing the work, the largest in District 4 history, which includes a mix of roadway improvements and bridge replacements on I-76, I-77 and Route 8 in Akron.
"This project will dramatically improve pavement and safety conditions throughout these routes, providing a much smoother ride for the motorists of northeast Ohio for many years to come," said Gery Noirot, ODOT District 4 deputy director.
Specifically, the project calls for reconstruction of I-76 between East Avenue to Princeton Street; I-77 from SR 8 to Waterloo Road; the resurfacing of State Route 8 just north of I-77/I-76; the addition of a southbound lane on State Route 8 between Carroll Street and Beacon Street; and the reconstruction of the left-hand ramps on I-76.
"Currently, the I-76 Kenmore leg is closed while crews work on the pavement replacement on I-77 between East Avenue and Vernon Odem Boulevard," said ODOT District 4 spokesperson Ramon Marsch.
"In August, we moved into phase 2, detouring traffic down the I-76/ Kenmore leg."
There are various ramp closures and lane restrictions throughout the Akron Beltway associated with the project. More than 100,000 vehicles travel this section of roadway each day, with drivers now having to deal with closures and delays.
"Anytime there's a new traffic change, it takes motorists some time to adjust to the new routes," said Marsch. "We always encourage motorists to plan ahead and take the new route before the traffic pattern change happens to make themselves more familiar with the new route."
According to Raymond Fridley, Akron Beltway Improvement project manager, approximately 10 percent of the work has been completed to date.
"The project is progressing well, and the design and construction team's momentum is at a high level. There is great coordination between ODOT and Ruhlin/Shelly and Sands Akron Beltway Joint Venture."
Fridley noted that the biggest challenge on the high-profile assignment is maintenance of traffic in the area.
"This is due to the project location in Akron, and the high volume of vehicles. The project consists of numerous phases that need to be well thought out and executed. The project needs to ensure safety is at the forefront of everyone's thoughts and actions.
"We have taken every measure of notifying motorists of the traffic pattern changes," said Fridley. "This is done on social media, message boards on the roadways and weekly emails alerting the public of any new changes associated with the project."
Although the project is in the very early stages of construction, there is plenty of activity at the job site.
"We have major reconstruction at the Vernon Odom Interchange taking place right now, as well as the SR 8 median at the Central Interchange," said Fridley. "We will continue to work on these phases of the project through October 2021.
"Our next phase of reconstruction will be the right lanes of SR 77 NB from Waterloo Road to Central Interchange and along 77NB/76WB from the Central Interchange to East Avenue. This work will be ongoing through the summer of 2022."
There have been no unexpected issues to date, and the elements have not affected the project significantly.
"This project will be working through the winter months, so we will need to prepare accordingly for the weather. The project team will adjust accordingly to ensure it doesn't substantially impact the schedule."
To keep everyone safe during construction, crews are currently working behind barrier walls. Message boards alert motorists of the construction taking place.
Equipment being used on the job includes a John Deere 700K XLT dozer with GPS; a Vermeer T658 trencher; a Komatsu PC78MR mini-excavator; a Volvo L120H front loader; a Bomag BW211D-3 smooth drum roller; a Midland SP-8 widener; a LeeBoy 3000 belt loader; an Cat 325FL excavator; a Ford F250 pickup truck; a Ford F250 pickup truck; an International 4900 DT466E water truck; hauling trucks; W22,24,26,28 Wetz Trucking dump trucks; and a T701 Taylor Trucking dump truck. The heavy machinery is being used for roadway demolition, drilled shaft auguring, cranes for bridge structures and wall placement.
Main materials include asphalt, concrete, aggregate base, cement for subgrade stabilization and noise and MSE walls. Epoxy-coated rebar, drainage pipe and structures also are necessary to perform the various tasks.
Early work has involved large amounts of effort for the preparation of construction phasing for the project and how traffic will be maintained. Specific ramps can only be shut down for certain durations, so the phasing needs to coincide with the ramp closures.
Heavy roadway demolition has been necessary, including the teardown of several bridges.
"All the roadways and bridges being reconstructed need repair," said Fridley. "Bridges also are being widened to meet traffic demands, as needed."
Excavation is considered a large part of the project each day.
"Excavation is required for drainage, embankment, roadway demo, wall installation, bridge installation, etc.," said Fridley. "Essentially, all aspects of major reconstruction require some type of excavation to take place in some form or fashion."
As for the most time-consuming part of the work, said Fridley, "A large portion of this project is constructing the two new flyover bridges. These are large bridges that will take the most amount of time to construct due to the size, complexity and location."
Milestones on the project will include completion of the pavement replacement between East Avenue and Vernon Odem Boulevard.
"Odem Boulevard is huge, because it will allow motorists to be able to drive on smooth pavement throughout the entire project," Fridley added.
Construction began in early June 2021. Work is expected to take place between late 2021 and 2024 and will include the reconstruction of I-77 between Waterloo Road and the Central Interchange and on I-76 between Princeton Avenue and East Avenue.
The entire project is expected to be completed by summer 2025. CEG
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